Guilty Pleas in International Criminal Law: Constructing a Restorative Justice Approach

By Nancy Amoury Combs | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER ONE
International Criminal Justice Then and Now
The Long Road from Impunity to (Some) Accountability

The Norms of Impunity

The mass atrocities that we would now label crimes against humanity have been committed since the dawn of humankind but have virtually never elicited criminal sanctions. The mid-nineteenth century saw efforts to articulate and codify rules governing the conduct of armed conflict, but these early codification attempts were aimed at the conduct of states.18 In response to the horrors of World War II, however, the victorious allies established international tribunals at Nuremberg and Tokyo to prosecute the leaders of the defeated Axis powers. The tribunals had jurisdiction over three crimes: crimes against the peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity,19 and the convictions they imposed on German and Japanese leaders were considered a watershed in the nascent movement to hold individuals responsible for mass atrocities. Consequently, efforts were made to consolidate these advances. The Genocide Convention20 was concluded in 1948 to prohibit what has been described as the most heinous international crime, and the entry into force of four Geneva Conventions in 1950 significantly developed and clarified the laws of war and effectively criminalized certain conduct committed during armed conflict.21 Efforts were made to develop a comprehensive code of international crimes and to establish a permanent international court in which to prosecute those crimes, but these became mired in Cold War politics.22 The following thirty years did see some codification advances, however, through the conclusion of human-rights treaties, which clarified and strengthened existing prohibitions and established new ones. Widely ratified conventions on slav

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